HOUSTON -- The official word isn't in, but Jason Hammel may have just pitched himself out of the Oakland starting rotation with an 8-1 loss to the Astros Wednesday.
Hammel was one out away from getting out of the first inning having allowed just one run. By the time he got the out, six runs had crossed the plate. He would go on to allow eight runs, all earned, before the bullpen took over.
The A's picked up Hammel and Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs on July 5 in an effort to shore up the starting rotation. It came at quite a cost -- the Cubs got two of the A's top prospects in Addison Russell and Billy McKinney and pitcher Dan Straily, a 10-game winner last year.
The A's are 9-8 since Hammel became a starter in Oakland, but the club is 0-4 in his starts and 9-4 in the other 13.
At the time of the trade, Hammel had eight wins and a 2.98 ERA for a bad Cubs team. Coming to a good A's team has seen him go in a completely different direction. Six of his last seven starts for the Cubs saw him go six innings or longer. He hasn't gone that deep into a game even once for Oakland.
He'd allowed just five homers in his final 13 starts with Chicago, but he's allowed five in four starts for the A's.
Meanwhile, the man whose spot in the rotation was given over to Hammel -- left-hander Tommy Milone -- was 6-0 in his last 11 Oakland starts before being sent down to Triple-A Sacramento. Milone started Tuesday for the River Cats and took his first loss, giving up six runs in six innings. He has a 6.43 ERA since his demotion.
Back-to-back one-out singles from Kike Hernandez and Jason Castro put runners at the corners and Hammel had a chance to get out of the inning with a double play. He got the grounder he wanted, but Nick Punto and Jed Lowrie weren't quite quick enough to get Marc Krauss at first, a run scored and the dam burst.
In short order the Astros got a walk from Jon Singleton, an RBI single from Matt Dominguez on which rookie center fielder Billy Burns botched the pickup as two runs scored. Carlos Corporan singled in a run and Robbie Grossman homered, and 44 Hammel pitches into the game, the A's were looking at a 6-0 mountain to climb.
Josh Donaldson opened the second inning with a first-pitch homer off Astros starter Dallas Keuchel, but Oakland wouldn't get any more against him as he threw his fifth career complete game.
The Astros struck again against Hammel in the fifth inning when Singleton unloaded a two-run homer.
The one positive thing Hammel did accomplish by making it into the fifth inning is that he didn't burn out the bullpen. Long man Evan Scribner needed the day off because he'd pitched in three consecutive games. None of the four relievers used pitched more than one inning, and together with Thursday's day off, the bullpen should be relatively fresh Friday to start the series against the Royals in Oakland.
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